STRATFORD, CT (WFSB) - Crews in Stratford are still investigating after a fire destroyed the Shakespeare American Festival Theater early Sunday morning.

The Stratford Fire Department received several calls about the fire just before 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Firefighters were on scene minutes after the first call came in, but by then, the old theater was engulfed in flames, with most of them coming from the stage area.

The theater did have a sprinkler system, but whether or not it was working, that’s something officials said they’re looking into.

On Monday, contractors were picking through the rubble, while onlookers stopped by to catch a glimpse of what's left of the old historic Shakespeare American Festival Theater.

“It meant a lot to the town, it really did and there were so many people, school children that would come from all over, all over the country to see performances," said Mary Ellen Kother, of Stratford.

The theater, which was built in the 105-s, once featured Katherine Hepburn, James Earl Hones, and Christopher Plummer.

“This loss was not ours in Stratford, it was also the loss for the world," said Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick.

After closing in the 1980s, the state took over the land, turning it over to the town in 2005.

Over the years, there were multiple plans to redevelop the theater, but nothing ever came of it.

According to the mayor, Stratford Fire, Police, and EMS was assisted by the Milford and Bridgeport Fire Departments.

Stratford officials said crews worked all morning until the fire was knocked down at about 5 a.m.

"It's early in the investigation, a complex fire because of the size of it," said Fire Marshal Brian Lampart, Stratford Fire Department. 

Officials said no one was injured.

On Monday, a state police K9 was brought in to walk the property, but it didn't turn up any hits for an accelerant.

Everyone in town wants answers as to what happened, and investigators are asking for patience.

“Lets find out what happened. If someone did it, lets hold them accountable, but right now we don’t have any information this was arson, right now we just don’t know and God forbid, somebody is in there, we just don’t know," said Stratford Police Chief Joe McNeil.

While the building had power, a security system, and heat, there are no cameras on the property. 

"There is a sprinkler system there, whether or not it activated, I don't know that yet. We have to trace the lines back to the original source of the sprinkler system, that would help us in our investigation," said Lampart. 

The fire marshal said it it will be a lengthy investigation.

On Sunday, Mayor Laura Hoydick described the loss of the building in a statement to Channel 3.

"The loss of this iconic and historic theater that holds a special place in the hearts of Stratford residents is devastating. I want to thank the dedicated personnel of our Fire, Police and EMS Departments as well as those from neighboring Milford and Bridgeport for their quick actions to keep our residents safe in response to this emergency."

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(1) comment

pgmr

condos will be going up shortly

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